Between April 11 and May 19, India will hold elections to the lower house of its parliament; the process is divided into seven stages. The Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has squared off against the party of Rahul Gandhi and other influential regional forces.
The General Elections of 2019 to determine the composition of the 17th Lok Sabha (Lower House) of the Indian Parliament is the largest democratic exercise; its results will also determine the new government of India. The country has a voting population of 900 million, among whom 84 million are first-time voters.
From the forbidding snow-clad terrains of the Himalayas to the burning deserts of Rajasthan, from the lush mountains of the Western Ghats to the sea-lapped sandy Coromandel coast, and from the southern tip of Kanyakumari to paradise-like Kashmir in the extreme north and the high mountain regions of Ladakh – the roof of India, and from the extreme reaches of Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast to the salt pans of Kutch in the west, Indian voters are exercising their democratic choice. For the next month, the plains, mountains, wetlands, deserts, cities, small towns and villages of India will be reverberating with the sounds, colours and controversies of the election campaign.
Gigantic machinery led and directed by the Election Commission of India is in place to ensure that every Indian citizen is able to participate in this fundamental and defining democratic exercise. As the Election Commission of India has described it, the Indian General Elections are a great festival of democracy. It is a unique exercise in the annals of the history of democracy throughout the world.
The principal fight is between the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party and its alliance partners, who form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress party and other regional parties. The Congress party saw its numbers in the 2014 elections fall drastically, and in the present elections it is struggling to regain a respectable number of seats in the Lower House. The regional parties, some of them opposed to the BJP and unsure about the Congress party, are basically fighting to retain their respective political bases in their states, so that it will enable them to strike a bargain at the federal level.
My perception is that Modi will certainly retain his position and his party will be returned to power. Gandhi’s victory seems uncertain because their alliances are not in place, across large portions of India, the Congress’s footprints have shrunk, a number of regional parties do not trust the Congress party, they do not want to concede to Gandhi the leadership role of any alliance in which they may become possible partners.
After elections, one may continue to see a surge in support for the BJP, while PM Modi will continue with his agenda of development for India and will continue to work out his vision of providing greater opportunities, creating world-class infrastructure, ensuring a “secured and healthy citizenry”, and continue with laying the foundation of a “solid economy”, imparting a sturdy and growing foundation for our defence industry and pursue India’s national interest at all levels – domestically and globally.
PM Modi has repeatedly said and demonstrated that he works for every Indian citizen, without any discrimination. His record on this count over the last five years (and even when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat) has been impeccable. He has often said that he is committed to working for those who have voted for him as well as those who have not voted for him. Therefore, I see clearly that India, under him, shall continue in its successful pursuit of growth, development and prosperity.
There is a possibility that a number of regional parties may join the NDA and Congress may become isolated. It remains to be seen.
India is a vibrant multi-party democracy and therefore there can be no polarisation of political forces along religious lines. I see those parties who have India’s national interest in mind, who wish to have a strong and stable government and leader leading India to the future coming together and aligning with Mr. Modi and BJP.